|Monk Season 4|
|Season 3||Season 5|
In a remote hotel room in New York City, contract killer Al Nicoletto confronts mob accountant Rudy Schick, demanding the return of some money that Rudy and his partner Ben Gruber stole from him. He shoots Schick in the leg with a suppressed pistol when he hesitates. Clutching his wound, Schick says that Gruber has taken off for California, and just sent a postcard from San Francisco. Rudy swears that that is all he knows. Nicoletto says that, unfortunately for Rudy, he believes him - and shoots him dead. Nicoletto then looks at the postcard, an image of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the camera zooms in on the image, transitioning into the title card.
Natalie drives Adrian Monk to a winery in Sonoma County to mark his anniversary, where he and Trudy honeymooned. Going inside, they are welcomed by resort host Sylvia Willis. The whole time, Adrian profusely apologizes for the events of last year (the previous year, they had planned a mystery weekend in which a couple of actors were going to act out a murder, which was supposed to last for three days had Monk not solved the "case" in twelve minutes, forcing everyone to be refunded and a new rule to not have any mysteries when Monk is around).
Over dinner, Monk meets an annoying man who introduces himself as Larry Zwibell. He appears tipsy after a single sip of wine, and Larry invites him to come to his room the next morning for a sure-fire hangover cure. While Monk goes upstairs, Larry sits down to join a poker game with the hotel's other guests.
The next morning, Monk is indeed hung-over, and decides to take Larry up on his offer. But when he and Natalie go to the room Larry said he was in, another man is there, and does not know who Monk is talking about. None of the other guests, nor the owner, remember any such man, and Natalie suspects that he was a figment of Monk's imagination, brought on by drunkenness. Monk, however, insists that he met the man and continues searching the hotel for him. Then Natalie sees that "Larry Zweibel" is the signature on a painting in the lobby, and believes that Monk made him up.
Unwilling to give up, Monk remembers that the poker players took a group photo the night before, and arranges for Natalie to "borrow" one of their digital cameras while they are following the group on a tour of the winery. But when they find the photo, there is no Larry in it. Now doubting his own sanity, Monk prepares to leave the resort, drive back to San Francisco and see Dr. Kroger.
Things take a twist when Al Nicoletto drives up, asking if they've seen his brother. He shows them a picture, and Monk recognizes the man in the picture as Larry. Nicoletto says that "Larry," whose real name is Ben Gruber, stole some money from the bank where he worked, and Nicoletto is trying to convince him to turn himself in and return the money, in exchange for a lenient sentence.
Monk figures out quickly that Nicoletto is not who he says he is - for a guy who supposedly is half-Venezualan (if Gruber's claims are correct), Nicoletto doesn't speak any Spanish, and refers to soda as "soda" instead of "pop"), and has Natalie break into his car while Monk keeps him busy. Unfortunately for Monk, keeping Nicoletto busy involves drinking enough wine to get Monk very inebriated (he intends to get the non-alcoholic wine, but a mixup results in Monk receiving the alcoholic version with Nicoletto getting the non-alcoholic). In the car, Natalie finds identification with Nicoletto's real name, and calls Captain Stottlemeyer.
Just as she returns to Monk, Nicoletto figures out that they're on to him, and forces them into the bottling room at gunpoint. However, they manage to overpower him.
Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive and take Nicoletto into custody, as he is wanted by the F.B.I. for a string of crimes, including the murder of Schick in New York City. Disher tells Stottlemeyer that Monk, still very drunk, is giving the summation in the hotel living room.
Here's What HappenedEdit
While it takes Monk a few tries to get it right, he summarizes the case: after a few hands of poker, Ben Gruber went back to his room for more cash, when he suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack. The other guests, along with the hotel owner and one of the waiters, came up to check on him, and found him dead, with a suitcase full of money open beside him. The guests knew that this was the kind of money someone might come looking for, so they decided to divide the money among themselves, and then act as though Gruber had never been there. This meant hiding the body, junking Gruber's vehicle, removing his name from the guest register, re-shooting the group photo without him, and collectively denying that he had been there.
One of the guests, a psychiatrist, points out that the police have found neither the body nor the money, and so the more likely explanation is that Gruber escaped the hotel in the middle of the night with the money. The police start to let the guests depart, then Natalie notices a strange taste in the new house wine she has been drinking, which Stottlemeyer recognizes as Aqua Velva aftershave (much to Natalie's horror). Armed with that clue, the police find Gruber's body floating in a wine vat next door. The guests and hotel staff are arrested, though Stottlemeyer predicts they will receive light sentences.
Natalie prepares to drive Monk home as he is sleeping off his drunkenness. She apologizes for not believing him.
Background Information and NotesEdit
- The episode features a unique lead-in to the opening credits: instead of fading out, the opening tag dissolves from the postcard of the Golden Gate Bridge in Nicoletto's hand to the title card.
- Paul Ben-Victor (Nicoletto) was the first of several Monk antagonists who later landed starring roles on subsequent USA series (in his case, In Plain Sight). Later guest stars include Burn Notice's Jeffrey Donovan (Mr. Monk and the Astronaut) and In Plain Sight's Fred Weller (Mr. Monk, Private Eye).
- One of the few times Natalie calls Monk by his first name (albeit while he is asleep).
- Natalie says that she and Mitch honeymooned in Paris, France, a detail that is likewise mentioned in Lee Goldberg's novel Mr. Monk is Miserable.
- Although a professional killer, Nicoletto doesn't wear gloves while killing Rudy, and sits in an armchair, possibly leaving forensic evidences such as hairs and fibers. Although it's also likely that he did clean up after himself once he looked at the postcard.